Cullman was founded in 1873 by
Colonel John Gottfried Cullmann,
a German refugee who came to America in 1866. Col. Cullmann was forced
to flee his country bankrupt and penniless after becoming involved in a
revolution. He made his way to America by working on a freight boat and
settled in Cincinnati, Ohio where he worked as a clerk in a bookstore.
While working at the bookstore, he began formulating ideas of a special
colony of working people, specifically a place for immigrants from
countries such as his native Germany. In 1869, he began reading about
the vast unsettled lands in the South. Reconstruction had begun and the
South was to become the place in which John G. Cullmann could realize
his dream of a thriving German immigrant colony.
Early in 1871, Cullmann finally bought passage on
a boat to Florence, one of the most cultured cities of Alabama at that
time. He met with Governor Patton and presented his idea.
The Governor furnished men and horses for him to explore available lands
in North Alabama. Cullmann lived at Florence and Tuscumbia during the
explorations, trying to interest many financiers to help him buy land.
He was not successful. The Southern people, depressed by tyranny and
persecution, were not optimistic about the future and did not like the
idea of immigrants moving into their communities.
But Cullmann did not give up on his dream!
Purchase of Land from L & N Railroad
John Cullmann, at the age of 48, finally met with
Lewis Fink, the land agent for the great North-South Railroad (later the
L&N Railroad) which had just built a line through the wilderness from
Decatur to Montgomery, Alabama.
After a careful survey, he contracted with the L&N Railroad for 349,000
acres. The only stipulation laid down by the company was that Cullmann
pay for all advertising of the land and other expenses incurred in
bringing the desired immigrants to the area.
During his tour of this land, Cullmann found the area to be perfect for
the establishment of his dream colony. The land extended from Decatur to
Montgomery, fifteen miles on each side of the railroad.
Once Cullmann had found the perfect place for his new colony he boarded
a train for the North and started advertising for immigrants. His ads
appeared in newspapers all over America and even in Europe. However, he
had some difficulty in encouraging the move southward at a time when
people were moving westward.
Cullmann and his son, Otto, published the Der Nord Alabama Colonist
(The North Alabama Colonist), to
encourage other Germans
to make the move to North Alabama.
On January 5, 1873, Cullmann succeeded in interesting fifteen Cincinnati
families in the idea of colonizing in the South.
In April of 1873, the first five families came by train to the spot
where Cullman now stands. Each was allotted a plot of ground. Soon they
built their log homes, enclosed them with a forklike fence, and cleared
small plots of round for planting against the coming winter.
For the necessities that could not be grown in such a short period,
Cullmann made several trips northward. On each trip, he brought back
more families to help his colony grow.
Incorporation of the City of Cullman
colony grew and, even though John Cullmann and his first settlers
were American citizens, many Germans began to move into the settlement.
In the middle of 1874, an election was held to incorporate the town.
With 30 votes cast, there were 23 for incorporation and 7 against.
It was also decided that the town was to be called "Cullman" after its
founder but with only one "n". Shortly after the incorporation of the
town in July of 1874, officials of the town were elected. John Cullmann
refused to hold public office.
Creation of Cullman County
Growth of the community during the years that followed was steady and
far above the expectations of John Cullmann. News of the great
opportunities in Cullman spread afar and Cullmann even made a trip to
Europe to establish agents for the purpose of getting more settlers to
come to North Alabama.
By 1877 the settlement had enough population to become a county. At that
time, the Cullman area was a part of Blount, Winston, Morgan and Walker
counties. A movement was started in 1876 to create a new county, but the
idea met with much opposition by people of the other counties. In that
day an area was required to have a population of more than 9,500 before
it could be considered for the creation of a new county.
After the 1876 census it was found that the requirement could be met and
action was started. A bill was introduced in the Alabama State
Legislature in March, 1876 by a senator from Blount County, but was
defeated by the senator after it met with opposition of his home county.
The bill was re-introduced by a Blount County Representative in February
of 1877. It passed the House and, despite opposition, passed the Senate.
Governor George S. Huston signed the bill.
John Cullmann was instrumental in the growth of his colony for the next
20 years. He would bring in a group of settlers, sell them land, and use
this money to send back to Germany for more settlers. Between 1871 and 1895, Cullmann brought more than 100,000 immigrants to
the South from Europe and other parts of America.
Cullmann had very little cooperation by the State of Alabama, however,
and even met with serious physical violence on one occasion.